Cynsational News

By Cynthia Leitich Smith, Gayleen Rabukukk, Stephani EatonSuma Subramaniam, and Gail Vannelli for Cynsations

(Author Monique Gray Smith and illustrator Nicole Niedhardt are the creators of When We Are Kind (Orca, 2020).)

Author/Illustrator Insights

Get to Know Monique Gray Smith and Julie Flett…. from The Canadian Children’s Book Centre. Peek: “I think it is important to read and be witness to the stories of challenge, pain and triumph. It is in the journey that teachings and life lessons are revealed that can help the reader sort through something that might be going on in their life or in the life of someone they love.”

Jason Reynolds Interview with William Kenower from YouTube. Peek: “[T]he writer is always trying to carve out their own space, like what do I have to say about this thing…Whatever your unique point of view is, it will affect the language. It will affect the way you bring that world to life because you’re looking through the window and not coming through the door.”

Candlewick Press

Interview: Victoria Bond from MG Book Village. Peek: “[F]iction…puts words and ideas in our bones that transport us to a ‘then’ where we care about what happens to people who are not us because we’ve imagined and inhabited their lives, in their times, in their way….[Stories] should give us insight into how the history we think is so far away is…uncomfortably close.”

Fear, Humor, and Revision: A Brooklyn Book Festival Panel by Sarah Yung from Publishers Weekly. Peek: [Janae Marks:] “[W]riting the next book was really scary…I think after you put a book out there, having this follow-up book—which is not a sequel, it’s another standalone—not knowing whether it’s going to land in the same way, that’s been scary. I think they call it second-book syndrome…[Y]ou feel like people have expectations now.”

Poetry Friday Anthologies by Sylvia Vardell from YouTube. Peek: “I’m interested in how to help teachers, librarians, and parents find and share poetry with kids and…create a book of poetry that would do the same king of thing—provide help to your educator or your parent or your grandparent on how to find and share poems.”

Equity & Inclusion

Fictional Pairings, Chemistry, and Authorial Responsibility: A Brooklyn Book Festival Panel by Sarah Yung from Publishers Weekly. Peek: [Leah Johnson:] “Part of what I feel about writing queer narratives—especially queer love stories—is it shows more than story for story’s sake. It shows story as blueprint for what is possible, especially for how young people can experience love…I want to give a window into a possible world, and…be as honest as possible….”

Candlewick Press

2020 Native American Cultural Celebration/Interview With Joseph Bruchac with Ron Castro from YouTube. Peek: “I wanted my [sons] to hear the stories that I did not hear when I was a child…I think traditional stories are [of] deep importance…[T]hey connect us to a past that has not vanished, that is actually ongoing. Our present is part of the past.”

Shake Up Your Shelves With David Bowles from HarperStacks. Peek: “Every year, of the 3,700 books written for children and teens, only about a quarter feature kids from communities of color, even though they make up 50 percent of U.S. students….The best place to shake up this country’s bookshelves is in schools and our libraries and classrooms.”

Boxed Lunch Interview Series Episode #41 Andrea Rogers by Fort Worth Community Art Center from YouTube. Peek: “I’m not going to perform being Indian for people. I’m going to write about my people, my life, my experience, and sometimes they’re going to turn into werewolves. It’s been hard to get that kind of stuff out there because that wasn’t what publishers thought they wanted….[N]ow that it’s out there, people are reading it.”

Q&A With Adi Alsaid, Come On In by Alaina Leary from We Need Diverse Books. Peek: “I’m a strong believer that kids deserve to see themselves in stories. I’m happy to see the increase in representation in the YA book world for immigrant and second-generation kids in recent years, but I want them to have more….I wanted more stories that highlight microaggressions that immigrants and children of immigrants face.”

HighWater Press

Author Interview With David A. Robertson with Marissa Magneson from Harbourfront Centre. Peek: “I wanted to use comics to break down barriers that comics themselves had created….Comics have incredible power to reach and engage youth…I wanted to use graphic novels to talk about difficult subjects, to talk about Indigenous people…, to talk about our cultures, our experiences, our contemporary struggles, our resiliency, our strength….”

Writing Craft

Interview: Reina Luz Alegre, Author of The Dream Weaver from Las Musas. Peek: “I worked with my editor on most of the characters’ names…[M]y approach to naming characters varies. Sometimes I simply love a particular name. Sometimes the character just pops into my head already named, like ‘Hi, I’m Kevin!’…[O]ften I’ll look through what names were popular in the year I imagine a character would have been born.”

Author Interview: Loriel Ryon by Raven Eckman from A New Look on Books. Peek: “[T]he hardest part is deciding when to cut something that started out as an important framework to get me through the drafting process, but isn’t really serving the overall story anymore. I hate to say goodbye to something I spent so much time…on. My gut tells me it served its purpose and needs to go….”

Bloomsbury Children’s Books

Let’s Talk Illustrators #56: Laura Freeman by Mel Schuit from Let’s Talk Picture Books. Peek: “I work completely digitally in Photoshop. I used to scan in pencil sketches and work in Painter, switching to Photoshop to make adjustments, but now with their improved brushes…I don’t have to scan or switch back and forth from one program to another. It saves me a lot of time!”

Supernatural Experiences, Villains, and the Writing Process: A Brooklyn Book Festival Panel by Sarah Yung from Publishers Weekly. Peek: [Claribel A. Ortega:] “Sometimes I have to outline part of the book to keep going, but in general, I just sort of see where the characters take me—because they always really end up surprising me, and I love that process of just writing and seeing what happens and letting the story unfold.”

Interview With Ruth Behar, Author Letters from Cuba from Maria Ramos-Chertok. Peek: “I spent a decade trying to write an adult novel that is in a drawer. Then I gave myself the freedom to write from a state of innocence, allowing myself to be a kid again. There was something so empowering about that….I liked writing with that voice and for a middle grade group….”

Timeless Endings by Donald Maass from Writer Unboxed. Peek: “Endings can satisfy…but we are most deeply engaged by how that satisfaction is earned. Endings can thrill, too, but that thrill depends on the disasters and dread that precede it. Endings can be happy, sweet or even weepy, but that won’t happen if we do not first fear that happiness is impossible….”

Candlewick Press

The Worried Writer Ep. #64: Hayley Chewins “I Work Very Intuitively” by Sarah Painter from The Worried Writer. Peek: “[I]f you get an offer to revise and resubmit, it’s such a compliment, from the agent or the editor, because they’re taking time to read your work and to give you feedback on it….[T]here’s a high chance that if you do the revisions…it will end up going your way.”


Liesa Abrams Joins RH Children’s Books to Head New Imprint by Emma Kantor from Publishers Weekly. Peek: “Random House Books for Young Readers…[has] a new imprint, effective Nov. 9. The imprint, Labyrinth Road, will focus on middle grade series and novels, as well as YA—particularly contemporary fantasy and realistic literary novels with high-concept hooks. The debut list will launch in 2022.”

Six Diversity-Focused Publishers & Imprints Announced in the Last Year by Sangeeta Mehta from Mehta Book Editing. Peek: “Last summer, when I noticed that a number of publishers were starting up or launching new imprints in an effort to amplify marginalized voices, I came up with a list…Since then, I’ve heard announcements from at least six other such publishers and imprints and have gathered information about them as well….”

HarperCollins Launches I Can Read! Comics by Brigid Alverson from Publishers Weekly. Peek: “HarperCollins is extending its long-running I Can Read! line of leveled beginning readers with a new format, I Can Read! Comics, which will debut next year. The graphic novels are designed for children ages 4 to 8…[E]ach book will include a ‘Cartooning Basics’ page to show readers…how to read comics.”

Agent Versus Attorney: Who Can Help Me With My Publishing Contract? by Jacqui Lipton from Luna Station Quarterly. Peek: “Writers who don’t have and/or don’t want a literary agent might consider whether it’s worth using an attorney…to help review and/or negotiate…publishing contracts. This can be a good option for contracts outside the scope of your agency representation…The first question is what an attorney can do for you in these situations.”

Global Kid House LLC

Global Kidz House Celebrates African Storytelling by Claire Kirch from Publishers Weekly. Peek: “Christine Mapondera-Talley, a Chicago resident who self-published a picture book, Makanaka’s World: Adventure in Morocco, two years ago, is launching a publishing company, called Global Kidz House. GKH will specialize in children’s books (pre-K to seventh grade) that celebrate the history and diverse cultures of Africa and the African diaspora in fiction and nonfiction.”


Marketing Inside and Out: How Publishers and Retailers Are Moving Books Now from Publishers Weekly & NYU SPS Center for Publishing. Peek: “Join Publishers Weekly and the NYU SPS Center for Publishing…[in] a virtual half-day conference about the new marketing reality from both the publisher and retailer sides. We’ll look at how marketers and those who sell books are reaching readers in strategically savvy ways….” The event will take place Nov. 17.


ABA Kicks Off New Marketing Campaign by Claire Kirch from Publishers Weekly. Peek: “[T]he American Booksellers Association is launching a national marketing campaign, ‘Boxed Out,’ that is designed to draw attention to…indie booksellers…this upcoming holiday season…Boxed Out features installations covering the facades of six indie bookstores in New York City, Washington, D.C., and Los Angeles; there will also be a #BoxedOut social media campaign.”

A Surprisingly Strong Year of Book Sales Continues by Jim Milliott from Publishers Weekly. Peek: “[B]ig summer bestsellers, a surge in interest in books on social justice, and ongoing demand by parents for children’s books that both educate and entertain combined to continue to push up unit sales of print books…[U]nit sales rose 6.4 percent for the nine months ended Oct. 3, 2020… YA nonfiction…had the biggest gains….”


Little Free Library and Colle McVoy have teamed up to launch a new program, Read in Color! “Through this initiative, we aim to bring diverse books to communities worldwide and amplify BIPOC and LGBTQ voices at a grassroots, community level.”

A Reset for Library E-books by Andrew Albanese from Publishers Weekly. Peek: “[U]sage of e-books, digital audio, and other digital resources has…risen dramatically at the nation’s public libraries—no surprise. But the question remains: will this spike in usage be a game changer for digital content in libraries? Or, will the library e-book market settle back into its old, contentious ways….”

Viking Books for Young Readers

Education/Other Resources/Events

In celebration of the Oct. 20, 2020 National Day on Writing—sponsored by the National Council of Teachers of English—classrooms, students, and individual participants are invited to gather via Zoom at 1:30 p.m. EST for conversation and a shared writing exercise with Max Brallier, author of the children’s series The Last Kids on Earth. Register here. NCTE membership is not required.

HarperAlley, a publisher of graphic novels for kids and teens, is offering a free downloadable Educational Guide about how graphic novels increase visual literacy, expand critical thinking skills, and engage reluctant readers. “The purpose of this guide is to help you understand the power of visual literacy and how it can engage and grow your learners and readers through the use of graphic novel storytelling.”

The editors (Nova Ren Suma, Emily X. R. Pan) and contributors of Foreshadow: Stories to Celebrate the Magic of Reading and Writing YA will be holding free virtual events from Oct. 20 to Nov. 12, during which they will provide writing insights such as “What makes these memorable stories tick? What sparked them? How do authors build a world or refine a voice or weave in that deliciously creepy atmosphere to bring their writing to the next level?” You can register for these events here.

Mark your calendars! The free virtual Latinx KidLit Book Festival will take place Dec. 4 and Dec. 5. This two-day celebration of Latinx KidLit authors, illustrators, and books—aimed at young, teen and adult readers, and teachers and librarians—will include keynote sessions, Q&A events, and panels.

Scholastic Press

Teach Graphix Week is Coming Oct. 19 to Oct. 23! Peek: “Learn how to create your own comics with Scholastic Graphix creators each day of the week…Join Kazu Kibuishi (Amulet), Tui T. Sutherland (Wings of Fire), Jim Benton (Catwad), Shannon Wright (Twins), and Kevin Sherry (Squidding Around) for [free] lessons on adapting prose into a graphic novel, drawing lessons, story development, using humor, and more.”

Scholarships & Grants

The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators is awarding to 15 Black, Indigenous and People of Color authors who have never published a nonfiction book in the children’s book market, full tuition to the SCBWI/Smithsonian Institution Nonfiction Workshop (Nov. 6 and Nov. 8). The deadline to apply is Oct. 18.

We Need Diverse Books is raising $50,000 to expand its WNDB In the Classroom program, which “donates new books featuring diverse characters and written by diverse authors to schools and libraries across the country….WNDB In the Classroom…has donated over 19,000 books to schools and nonprofit organizations nationwide.”

Adopt a Classroom is partnering with Lee & Low Books to provide classrooms with $250 of diverse books as part of its Racial Equity in Schools Fund. “This grant is open to any licensed pre-kindergarten through grade 12 teacher employed at an accredited K-12 school in the United States.” Grant applications will be accepted until Oct. 23.

Applications are due by Nov. 1 for the Society of Children’s Book Writers and IllustratorsJane Yolen Mid-List Author Grant. “The grant awards $3,000 to mid-list authors and aims to help raise awareness about their current works-in-progress….You must be a current member who has published at least two PAL [published and listed] books, but has not sold anything for at least five years.”

The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators is accepting applications until Nov. 15 for its On-The-Verge Emerging Voices Award. This grant is open to “[a]ny writer or writer/illustrator from an ethnic and/or cultural background that is traditionally under-represented in children’s literature in America.” The grant covers the tuition to the SCBWI Summer Conference.

Schwartz & Wade


Nominations for the 2020 Undies (Case Covers) Award will be accepted until Nov. 1. Anyone can nominate, including publishers. You can either nominate from the gallery or take a picture and send it in (must be from a cover published in 2020).

Congratulations to the winners and honorees of the 2020 Américas Award for Children’s and Young Adult Literature. The winners are Beast Rider by Tony Johnston and Maria Elena Fontanot De Rhoads (Amulet Books, 2019) and Between Us and Abuela by Mitali Perkins, illustrated by Sara Palacios (Farrar Straus Giroux, 2019). See video of the virtual award ceremony on Oct. 12.

This Week at Cynsations

More Personally – Cynthia

Happy belated Indigenous Peoples’ Day (this past Monday)! Kelly Jensen at Book Riot wrote an amazing article that’s a deep dive into the state of Native literature and publishing today—“Readers Are Realizing Their Hunger For Our Stories”: Native Literature for Kids and Teens. If you have a commitment to more inclusion and equity in the industry and conversation of books, please take the time to give it a careful read.

Learn more about the artists, illustrations and changes made to the text of the ebook and paperback editions.

On a related note, be sure you don’t miss the cover reveals for the paperback and ebook editions of Jingle Dancer, illustrated by Cornelius Van Wright and Ying-Hwa Hu (Morrow, 2000)(Heartdrum, winter 2021); Rain Is Not My Indian Name, cover by Lori Early (HarperCollins, 2001), cover by Natasha Donovan (Heartdrum, winter 2021); and Indian Shoes illustrated by Jim Madsen (HarperCollins, 2002), cover by Sharon Irla, interior illustrations by MaryBeth Timothy, (Heartdrum, fall 2020, winter 2021). The ebook of Indian Shoes is already available, and the rest will be published on Feb. 9, 2020 (or the hardcover editions are still available, if you prefer those).

I’m also honored to be among the contributing poets to Hop to It: Poems To Get You Moving, edited by Sylvia Vardell and Janet Wong (Pomelo Books, 2020). From the promotional copy:

“Breathe. Stretch. Wiggle. Dance. March. Stomp. Reach!  

“Contains 100 poems that incorporate a wide variety of movements—including deskercise! You’ll find poems on “2020 topics,” too, such as life during a pandemic, virtual learning, staying connected with friends, and standing up for what you believe in.” 

Thank you to panelist-authors David Bowles, Anton Treuer, and everyone who made the School Library Journal Day of Dialogue possible. It was an honor to moderate the Indigenous voices panel.

Beyond that, please indulge me while I share my fan-girl moment involving Dr. Sanjay Gupta of CNN.

More Personally – Gayleen

Shout out to Aida Salazar! It’s a rare middle grade novel that can simultaneously celebrate the beauty of poetry while also exposing a politically-motivated border policy.

Reading Land of the Cranes (Scholastic, 2020) prompted me to donate to Kids In Need of Defense, a group dedicated to ensuring kids seeking safety in the U.S. have an attorney in immigration court, while also lobbying to protect the thousands who have been refused entry for asylum consideration since the border was closed.

More Personally – Stephani

Last week our family enjoyed a week at the beach, which meant I got to read, read, read. Especially now, when all of our screen time has increased with Zoom calls, I appreciated the down time to sink into books.

Upon return I got to go pick up my copy of Rural Voices edited by Nora Shalaway Carpenter. I am loving the diverse perspectives of rural life in these stories. I also finished watching Kate Messner and Julie Hedlund‘s “Reinventing the Author Visit” program, which was full of wisdom and practical advice.